Junior Qual

2022-23 Dates

Thursday, Sept 1, 2022
For students beginning theses in Fall ’22
Thursday, January 26, 2023
For students beginning theses in Spring ’23
Thursday, March 23, 2023
For students beginning theses in Fall ’23
Note: BMB & Neuroscience students should consult with the chemistry department and neuroscience committee for details about their qualifying exam and exam dates.

Biology Qual Format

The Qual exam is open-book, -notes, -internet, -library. You may not collaborate with fellow students. There are two sections. One consists of ~10 quantitative questions from which you select four to answer. The other is a list of ~10 essay questions from which you select two to answer. These essay questions are based on material related to 300-level coursework.  While you are expected to draw upon primary, published sources of information as the basis of your answers, you will need to interpret and synthesize this information, on your own, while preparing your answers.  Remember to use proper citation practices when acknowledging the sources of specific information you report in your qual answers.  For any questions you have while taking the exam, it is possible to consult with individual department faculty.

You have a long weekend to complete the exam. Exams are available at noon on Thursday and must be submitted by noon the following Monday.


Be sure to attend the qual information session in the spring to learn more about the Biology Junior Qual. (Date & Time TBA during spring semester.)

How might you study for the qual?  The best preparation is to assemble your class notes, term papers, and lab reports. It probably also makes sense to get your texts together (including your Intro book). These will all be potentially useful resources. In fact, any resources (other than fellow students) may be consulted in completing the qual.  Remember to use proper citation practices when acknowledging the sources of specific information you report in your qual answers.

For additional information, see the Library's Guide to the Qual where you will find guides to online resources, information about science writing and citation styles, and sample qual questions.

Junior Qual Dates

The biology junior qual is offered three times each year:

  • first Thursday of fall semester (for seniors beginning thesis that semester)
  • first Thursday of spring semester (for seniors beginning thesis that semester)
  • first Thursday after spring break (for juniors beginning thesis the following fall)

A sign-up sheet/form will be posted at least 2 weeks prior to each Qual date.

Additional Information

Adapted from the Reed Guidebook

All students must take the Junior Qualifying Examination before entering their senior year. Successful completion of the exam makes you eligible to enroll for the thesis. Ordinarily, the exam is taken in the second semester of the student's junior year.

Students must pass the junior qualifying examination (junior qual) before being allowed to begin a thesis in the senior year. The objectives of the qualifying exam are to gauge the student’s mastery of the discipline, to serve as a diagnostic aid in identifying weaknesses in the student’s preparation for advanced study or thesis work in that discipline, to assist the student in unifying the knowledge of a major field of study, and to assist the department in assessing the effectiveness of its own program.

This examination is held in the semester preceding the student’s thesis year. Students who are on a leave of absence or planning to apply for readmission must make arrangements with the department to take this examination before registering for the fall (or first) semester of the thesis year.

A student can be awarded a pass or a conditional pass, or can fail the exam. A student who fails or who passes conditionally may be required to satisfy certain conditions or may be re-examined. A second failure shall debar the student from candidacy for a degree in that department. A student may, however, take the qualifying examination in another field.